We called it "Gitzapalooza."
We had been planning trip after trip to see Sara, but there were a lot of factors involved. Time off work, cost, Sara's health, and most importantly, our health - if Sara was even well enough to receive visitors, those visitors had to be completely, 100%, without-a-doubt healthy. No sniffle. No cough. No having been around anyone else who was sick. Any small germs in Sara's body could be detrimental.
Obviously, that part made it pretty tough.
Twice, the trips we had been planning for months were literally cancelled the week we were going to leave. Once, it was two days before departure.
I don't think I have ever been so heartbroken as I was when those trips to Iowa fell through. Until we lost her. That's a whole new level of heartbreak.
When I told my co-workers a few weeks ago that Sara wasn't doing well and that she would be passing away soon, one asked me "whether I had ever actually met her."
I had to laugh. I pictured knocking on the door of her condo, then shaking hands cordially and saying "Hi Sara, I'm Mandy. It's nice to finally meet you."
No. Not even close. If she hadn't been in so much pain, she would have been the kind of friend I would have run at and tackled. While squealing. That embrace would have lasted several minutes. And then, all week, we would have laid in bed, laughing until we cried, watching movie after movie (mostly musicals because we are super-cool), basically cuddling.
Everybody likes a good cuddle. But you don't cuddle with just anybody. You cuddle with the kind of friends who know all your secrets. The ones who call you nicknames and flip you off and drink wine with you and text you when they know something stupidly small is going on that matters to you. You cuddle with the kind of friends who you don't need to hear them say more than "hello" when they answer the phone to know how they're feeling.
Sara was this kind of friend. And thank God, she isn't the only one. Because these girls would have been in that bed with us. Also cuddling.
We made the hard decision not to go to Iowa for Sara's funeral this week. That decision got even harder during the week when we watched all the beautiful services they had for Sara, only able to experience through a screen (fully felt the irony of that, by the way) and Alece and Candy's texts (thank God for you two), unable to be there.
But the thing is, it was either Iowa or Indiana. Ellyn just couldn't get away with all the kids she cares for on her own, so Amie and I booked flights to see Ellyn instead. This is the group who got together once a week or so, give or take a lung infection or
Mandy, Ellyn, Amie, and Sara. (Also known as Fred, Lucy, Ethel, and Ricky, per Sara's decreeing long ago - someday I'll have to tell you that story). Our hearts are knitted together in a way that I would have never thought four people who met on the internet could be. We decided Sara would want us together more than she would want us at her funeral. It was right to be here.
So this weekend, we drank wine (Moscato, Sara's very disgustingly sweet favorite). We laughed. We watched Dr. Horrible several times (OBVIOUSLY). El and Amie got the most beautiful tattoos in the world. We lit some paper lanterns and released them, watching them fly away, glowing into the night (while I repeatedly asked "ARE YOU SURE WE'RE NOT GOING TO SET SOMEBODY'S HOUSE ON FIRE!?"). We ate frozen Oreos. And most of us (everybody but me, who is still up blogging and watching it) fell asleep during "The Music Man," her favorite.
It is right to be here. Even if "Gitzapalooza" without her feels wrong.
It is right to miss her together. Even if not being at her funeral because of it felt wrong.
It is right to grieve together. Even if the seemingly-morbid way we grieve (mostly making inappropriate jokes about it, laughing instead of crying) seems just a little wrong (though, um, that's right up her alley).
It was right to love her so much you could explode. Even if it made losing her feel very, very wrong.
And it is right to love them too.
Nothing about that feels wrong.